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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–7
Verses 1–7

The contents of Rabshakeh’s speech being brought to Hezekiah, one would have expected (and it is likely Rabshakeh did expect) that he would call a council of war and it would be debated whether it was best to capitulate or no. Before the siege, he had taken counsel with his princes and his mighty men, 2 Chron. 32:3. But that would not do now; his greatest relief is that he has a God to go to, and what passed between him and his God on this occasion we have here an account of.

I. Hezekiah discovered a deep concern at the dishonour done to God by Rabshakeh’s blasphemy. When he heard it, though at second hand, he rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth, 2 Kgs. 19:1. Good men were wont to do so when they heard of any reproach cast on God’s name; and great men must not think it any disparagement to them to sympathize with the injured honour of the great God. Royal robes are not too good to be rent, nor royal flesh too good to be clothed with sackcloth, in humiliation for indignities done to God and for the perils and terrors of his Jerusalem. To this God now called, and was displeased with those who were not thus affected. Isa. 22:12-14, Behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, though it was a day of trouble and perplexity in the valley of vision (2 Kgs. 19:5), which refers to this very event. The king was in sackcloth, but many of his subjects were in soft clothing.

II. He went up to the house of the Lord, according to the example of the psalmist, who, when he was grieved at the pride and prosperity of the wicked, went into the sanctuary of God and there understood their end, Ps. 73:17. He went to the house of God, to meditate and pray, and get his spirit into a sedate composed frame, after this agitation. He was not considering what answer to return to Rabshakeh, but refers the matter to God. “Thou shalt answer, Lord, for me.”—Herbert. In the house of the Lord he found a place both of rest and refuge, a treasury, a magazine, a council-chamber, and all he needed, all in God. Note, When the church’s enemies are very daring and threatening it is the wisdom and duty of the church’s friends to apply to God, appeal to him, and leave their cause with him.

III. He sent to the prophet Isaiah, by honourable messengers, in token of the great respect he had for him, to desire his prayers, 2 Kgs. 19:2-4. Eliakim and Shebna were two of those that had heard the words of Rabshakeh and were the better able both to acquaint and to affect Isaiah with the case. The elders of the priests were themselves to pray for the people in time of trouble (Joel 2:17); but they must go to engage Isaiah’s prayers, because he could pray better and had a better interest in heaven. The messengers were to go in sackcloth, because they were to represent the king, who was so clothed.

1. Their errand to Isaiah was, “Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left, that is, for Judah, which is but a remnant now that the ten tribes are gone—for Jerusalem, which is but a remnant now that the defenced cities of Judah are taken.” Note, (1.) It is very desirable, and what we should be desirous of when we are in trouble, to have the prayers of our friends for us. In begging to have them we honour God, we honour prayer, and we honour our brethren. (2.) When we desire the prayers of others for us we must not think we are excused from praying for ourselves. When Hezekiah sent to Isaiah to pray for him he himself went into the house of the Lord to offer up his own prayers. (3.) Those who speak from God to us we should in a particular manner desire to speak to God for us. He is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, Gen. 20:7. The great prophet is the great intercessor. (4.) Those are likely to prevail with God that lift up their prayers, that is, that lift up their hearts in prayer. (5.) When the interests of God’s church are brought very low, so that there is but a remnant left, few friends, and those weak and at a loss, then it is time to lift up our prayer for that remnant.

2. Two things are urged to Isaiah, to engage his prayers for them:—(1.) Their fears of the enemy (2 Kgs. 19:3): “He is insolent and haughty; it is a day of rebuke and blasphemy. We are despised. God is dishonoured. Upon this account it is a day of trouble. Never were such a king and kingdom so trampled on and abused as we are: our soul is exceedingly filled with the contempt of the proud, and it is a sword in our bones to hear them reproach our confidence in God, and say, Where is now your God? and, which is worst of all, we see not which way we can help ourselves and get clear of the reproach. Our cause is good, our people are faithful; but we are quite overpowered with numbers. The children are brought to the birth; now is the time, the critical moment, when, if ever, we must be relieved. One successful blow given to the enemy would accomplish our wishes. But, alas! we are not able to give it: There is not strength to bring forth. Our case is as deplorable, and calls for as speedy help, as that of a woman in travail, that is quite spent with her throes, so that she has not strength to bear the child. Compare with this Hos. 13:13. We are ready to perish; if thou canst do any thing, have compassion upon us and help us.” (2.) Their hopes in God. To him they look, on him they depend, to appear for them. One word from him will turn the scale, and save the sinking remnant. If he but reprove the words of Rabshakeh (that is, disprove them, 2 Kgs. 19:4)-- if he undertake to convince and confound the blasphemer—all will be well. And this they trust he will do, not for their merit’s sake, but for his own honour’s sake, because he has reproached the living God, by levelling him with deaf and dumb idols. They have reason to think the issue will be good, for they can interest God in the quarrel. Ps. 74:22; Arise O God! plead thy own cause. “He is the Lord thy God,” say they to Isaiah—“thine, whose glory thou art concerned for, and whose favour thou art interested in. He has heard and known the blasphemous words of Rabshakeh, and therefore, it may be, he will hear and rebuke them. We hope he will. Help us with thy prayers to bring the cause before him, and then we are content to leave it with him.”

IV. God, by Isaiah, sent to Hezekiah, to assure him that he would glorify himself in the ruin of the Assyrians. Hezekiah sent to Isaiah, not to enquire concerning the event, as many did that sent to the prophets (Shall I recover? or the like), but to desire his assistance in his duty. It was this that he was solicitous about; and therefore God let him know what the event should be, in recompence of his care to do his duty, 2 Kgs. 19:6, 7. 1. God interested himself in the cause: They have blasphemed me. 2. He encouraged Hezekiah, who was much dismayed: Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard; they are but words (though swelling and fiery words), and words are but wind. 3. He promised to frighten the king of Assyria worse than Rabshakeh had frightened him: “I will send a blast upon him (that pestilential breath which killed his army), upon which terrors shall seize him and drive him into his own country, where death shall meet him.” This short threatening from the mouth of God would do execution, when all the impotent menaces that came from Rabshakeh’s mouth would vanish into air.